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Court Ousts South Korean President from Office; Trump-Russia Relations; FBI Chief Meets with Top Lawmakers; Thousands of Protesters Crowd Streets of Seoul. Aired Midnight-1a ET
Aired March 10, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:59:43] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour:
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Protests in South Korea after the country's president is officially impeached.
VAUSE: New questions about the largest private bank in Russia and the Trump organization, and why President Trump made those wiretapping accusations.
SESAY: And divine protection -- how one congregation is shielding undocumented immigrants with every ringing of the church bell.
VAUSE: Hello everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.
We are following breaking historic news out of South Korea. President Park Geun-Hye has just been ousted from office by the country's constitutional court. The eight justices voted unanimously to uphold Park's impeachment over alleged influence peddling. This is the first time that a South Korean president has been removed from office through impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEE JUNG-MI, SOUTH KOREA CONSTITUTIONAL COURT (through translator): We announce the decision as the unanimous opinion of all judges. We dismiss the defendant, President Park.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Live images right now from Seoul with demonstrations there. These are pro-Park Geun-Hye demonstrators, we believe. They started gathering there before the court's official announcement.
In response to all of this, the acting president has put the military on alert and ordered an increased security presence.
SESAY: Well, let's hear right now from CNN's Paula Hancocks who joins us from Seoul, South Korea. Paula you are there among those pro-Park protesters. Set the scene for us. What is happening, what are people saying?
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Isha -- we are just behind the police line at this point. It is proving difficult to get through. The pro-Park protesters are just behind these buses and they have been trying to rock these buses. They have also been trying to climb up and get over here. They want to get to the constitutional court which is where this decision was made just about 200 meters in that direction.
But the fact is they cannot get through. The police would not let them through. There's around 21,000 police on the streets of Seoul we're being told today to make sure there is no trouble.
But we have seen some scuffles because emotions are running extremely high. These protesters are the ones who wanted Park Geun-Hye to be reinstated. They did not think there was enough evidence for her to be impeached.
So there are a lot of people here who are extremely angry. One woman screaming democracy is dead. South Korea is dead because it did not go the way she wanted it to.
It is important though to say that there are a lot of people in this country who are very happy with what has happened today. There are millions of people who have been coming out on to the streets to protest against Park and there were cheers, there were tears of joy when the news came down.
So now you can see just how passionately some people here feel about what has happened. The demographics of the pro-Park supporters quite often, they are a bit older. We have seen a number of injuries, people collapsing potentially just because of the sheer exhaustion of being out here and the emotions running so high.
But you can see that the police are really trying not to let anything get out of hand. They are trying to crack down on any kind of dissent as soon as they can. They also pulled a few people down off one of the police buses just moments ago. So certainly they are keeping a very strong reaction to what we're seeing here.
But certainly it's a very historic day for South Korea -- a very happy day for some, a very bitter day for others.
John, Isha -- back to you.
VAUSE: Paula -- you said that they actually want to get to the e constitutional court. They're being prevented by that massive security presence. What would they do at the court if they could actually get through? What would they like to do if they got there?
HANCOCKS: It's a good question. There's nothing at the constitutional court now. The eight judges have already made their verdict. The story has moved on from the constitutional court but they want to vent their anger.
This is where they were protesting this morning. Tonight this is where they are trying to push against the institution. They are furious that they feel that there has been injustice done here.
And I must mention the pro-Park supporters have in large part been much smaller than the anti-Park supporters. We have seen every single Saturday night these massive candlelight vigils even in the brutal Korean winter calling for Park's impeachment.
The pro-Park contingent is smaller and it is older but it is no less more passionate. They are very emotional about what they see as a travesty of justice.
SESAY: Paula -- Miss Park, former President Park accused of corruption and influence peddling. That's essentially what the scandal is about. I'm interested how her supporters -- how they rationalize their allegations what they see as the injustice against her in this case.
HANCOCKS: Well for the pro-Park they are saying that there is not enough evidence against her. So those -- you can see there. There is someone who has collapsed. This is something we have seen a number of times before. Some of the police now calling for medical aid to come and help him.
[00:05:03] As I said earlier, there are a number of people who are elderly in this crowd. And there have been a number of people being taken away on stretchers.
But back to your question, Isha, those who wanted Park to be impeached believe that she has worked outside of the law. They believe she shared too much with this close confidante who was unelected. They didn't even know existed until last year. And they believe that she has -- the allegations are possibly that she has helped try and extort money from big business for this confidant and aide.
Now certainly, that is what the constitutional court agreed with at this point. I want to point out she now has lost her presidential immunity. Park Geun-Hye is now a civilian. So she can be prosecuted as special prosecutors want her to be.
Once again, you can see they're trying to topple that bus. The pro- Park supporters are just on the other side of that bus. They're trying to rock it. And what the police are trying to do is they put ropes underneath it to try and stabilize it. The police is by that bus.
And you can see there is actually a pro-Park supporter on top of the bus. This is where we saw some supporters being dragged down just about a half an hour ago.
So passions are very high. Emotions are very high. And there's a lot of anger in this part of the street of Seoul.
There is a lot of happiness though, a lot of rejoicing elsewhere. It's important to not that this is just one pocket of these protests -- John, Isha.
VAUSE: So Paula -- clearly this is a historic moment for South Korea. How significant was the decision by the court to broadcast its ruling live on national television?
HANCOCKS: I think there was a sense that this had to be absolutely transparent. There was an understanding that the entire country was going to be watching this verdict, that the needed to know what had happened. It is unprecedented.
The first female president of South Korea is now the first impeached president of South Korea. It was important for this court to be completely transparent and show what had happened. So I think that was certainly the importance of it being televised.
SESAY: Paula -- to pick up on your point of Park Geun-Hye losing her immunity with this decision being upheld, what comes next for her?
HANCOCKS: You lost liberty. This man is telling me we lost our liberty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our Korea -- we are everybody's laborer.
HANCOCKS: You lost your career, you believe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course. We want -- we against North Korea. Everybody Korean people, all the people -- we are finished.
We cannot understand impeachment for president. We cannot. No, never.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to lose our president. She is our president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President. We love. Tomorrow, our president.
HANCOCKS: You can see the passion there, very well said. The fact (inaudible) they are feeling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made our country.
HANCOCKS: Thank you very much.
You can see that there is anger. We're from CNN.
You can see there is a lot of anger that they feel they have been wrongly treated. They feel it is still their president. And you can see that anger spilling out on to the streets. You can see the frustration spilling out as there are some clashes and pushing and shoving with the police.
And there's an interesting point that that man said. He said we are against North Korea. We are for THAAD -- this is the U.S. military defense system which Park Geun-Hye's government is very much in support of. The first part of it arrived in this country on Monday.
But a potential liberal government would not be so supportive of that U.S. arsenal being here and would be potentially be more open to negotiations with North Korea.
So this is what many of these people here are worried if a new liberal government comes in that's exactly against everything that they've run for.
VAUSE: So Paula -- you're with the pro-Park demonstrators. Where are the anti-Park demonstrators right now? Because earlier, there were some scuffles, we heard.
HANCOCKS: They were just about two roads down, in fact even closer. They have dispersed somewhat at this point.
To be fair we are now penned into this area. So it's difficult to see exactly where they are. But when the verdict was brought down, there were cheers from that area.
I was at the constitutional court 200 meters away. And you could hear that cheer -- there were cheers of joy. There was a lot of jumping and cheering. And everyone was absolutely delighted with what had happened.
[00:09:56] So of course, this is now clearly a little unpleasant on the streets of Seoul. This is actually quite unusual from recent years for this to be happening. So the anti-Park I would assume have dispersed somewhat. But it's like that later on this evening, there will be another -- maybe even the last candlelight vigil, more of a celebration than a kind of protest.
VAUSE: Paula Hancocks there live amid all of the pro-Park demonstrators, possibly a candlelight vigil planned for later tonight.
In fact during this trial, at the constitutional court, lawyers for Park Geun-Hye said that she was actually a victim of the candlelight because she was tried by the media and it wasn't a fair trial and that they did not accept the ruling.
We also have a statement coming from the U.S. State Department which reads "We will continue to work with Prime Minister Hwang for the remainder of his tenure as acting president. And we look forward to a productive relationship with whomever the people of South Korea elect to be their next president.
This is a domestic issue in which the United States takes no position. It's up to the Korean people and their democratic institutions to determine the future of their country and we respect their decision."
SESAY: Well, joining us now from Busan, South Korea is Robert Kelly. He is a professor of political science at Pusan National University. Thank you so much for joining us.
Let me ask you this as we take a look at these scenes on the streets of South Korea. I mean it's quite clear that this is a nation deeply divided and this is a tough job for whomever takes over from Park Geun-Hye.
ROBERT KELLY, PUSAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Yes. This is what I think a lot of people were worried about, right. I think this is one of the reasons why the court ultimately decided to accelerate the verdict. They could have taken more time on.
But I mean this has just been percolating now for months and months and months. The country has been frozen. Politics has been in gridlock. Some kind of decision needed to be made. It's better to people sooner rather later, I suppose.
I can only imagine though what this would have been like if she had been released; if she had sort of not been found guilty. The explosion on the streets would have been just I think gigantic.
VAUSE: We heard from the State Department essentially saying that this is a domestic matter for the South Koreans. But in reality it isn't because if the opposition Democratic Party is elected, it looks like they will be if the opinion polls are right. That has a lot of implications for the U.S., South Korea's relationship with the United States, also South Korea's relationship with North Korea.
KELLY: Yes, that's right. The South Korean left has traditionally been more accommodating of North Korea and more willing to engage it and talk about issues with it whereas the South Korean right had traditionally been more hawkish and confrontational.
So perhaps the South Korean left will try (inaudible) and has been chosen in the last eight or nine years. I'm actually a little bit doubtful though because I don't think the argument for engaging North Korea can be made as easily as it could 20 years ago.
You know, just the use of VX gas, for example, last week in Malaysia, the missile tests, the nuclear weapons -- I mean all these suggest that North Korea is a pretty serious global menace now and it will be really, really hard for the South Korean left to basically tell the Americans, you know, we want to reengage this country after 20 years of, you know, missile tests and nuclear tests and the rest. I think it will be very hard.
SESAY: All right. Professor Kelly joining us there from South Korea, from Pusan National University -- We appreciate it. Thank you so much for the insight.
KELLY: Thank you.
VAUSE: We'll take a short break.
When we come back, the head of the FBI met with top U.S. lawmakers on Thursday. It's all happening amid more questions about the Trump administration's ties with Russia.
SESAY: Plus the new U.S. environmental chief has some new alternative facts. What Scott Pruitt is saying about climate change and CO2 -- that's coming up.
[00:13:27] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me means not having to apologize for being who I truly am, to be able to express myself fully without fear and to be living my life the way I choose to without giving a flying (inaudible) what anybody else thinks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom to me means being able to express yourself in the best way that you can without being negated by anything, outside force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: CNN is teaming up with young people around the world for a unique student-led day of action against modern day slavery with the launch of My Freedom Day on March 14.
SESAY: Driving all of this is a simple question, what does freedom mean to you? Send us your answer via text, photo or video across social media using the #myfreedomday.
Now, new information has emerged about computer communications this summer between servers owned by a Russian bank and the Trump organization.
VAUSE: CNN's justice correspondent Pamela Brown has late details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We've learned FBI investigators and computer scientists continue to examine whether there is a computer connection between the Trump organization and a Russian bank called Alfa Bank according to several sources familiar with this investigation.
Now, this is the same server mentioned in a Breitbart article that a White House official said sparked President Trump's series of tweets last Saturday accusing investigators of tapping his phone.
CNN is told there was no FISA warrant on this particular server. But questions about the connection between the server and the Russian bank were widely dismissed four months ago as an attempt by Alfa Bank to block spam.
But we have learned that the FBI's counterintelligence team, the same one looking into Russia's suspected interference in the 2016 election is still examining it. And one official I spoke with said the server relation is seen as somewhat odd and perplexing and investigators are not ignoring it. But the FBI still has a lot more work to do to determine what was behind the unusual activity and whether there is any significance to it.
The FBI declined to comment and the White House did not respond to our request for a comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP) VAUSE: Thanks to Pamela Brown for that report. And as the Trump campaign's issues involving Russia continue, FBI director James Comey met with eight of the nation's top lawmakers on Thursday. These are lawmakers who have access to the most highly classified intelligence.
SESAY: They reportedly discussed Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to the Trump campaign. Sources on the Senate Intel Committee tell CNN they want all Trump associates who allegedly spoke with Russian officials to testify before the committee.
VAUSE: That's going to be a lot of people turning up by that time.
For more on this we're joined now by Wendy Greuel and John Philips. Wendy is a former L.A. city councilwoman and John is a CNN political commentator and talk radio host. I think you write an article or two for the Orange County newspaper.
VAUSE: And also a Trump supporter, the busiest man in show business.
Ok. So this secret meeting on Capitol Hill which everybody seems to know about. The FBI director, he huddled with senior lawmakers in both Houses, John, but still no meeting with the President. Why wouldn't Donald Trump just want to sit down, talk to James Comey and find out everything there is to know about wiretapping?
JOHN PHILIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because I think we are heading in John Burcher (ph) territory -- could be, might be. You saw in the piece that the FBI dismissed this connection between the computer in Russian and the computer at the Trump Organization before because the likely scenario is that it is spam.
I probably have a lot of communication on my computer with Romania because of all of the Viagra ads they send me via spam.
WENDY GREUEL, FORMER L.A. CITY COUNCILWOMAN: Too much information -- yes.
PHILIPS: It doesn't mean I have any actual communication with Romania just because they are trying to sell.
SESAY: Let's move -- let's move away from there.
Wendy -- the fact that Director Comey went to Capitol Hill to meet with these lawmakers, the fact that it was clearly a public yet secret meeting. What do you make of that? Is that about sending a message to the White House? Why not have them come to the CIA? How are you reading it -- the optics at play here?
GREUEL: Well, I think, you know, there were comments by Congressman Adam Schiff saying that Director Comey was not being completely honest or forthright in sending information or sharing information that was appropriate. And so I think it was important to have that meeting today.
[00:20:03] This is Republicans and Democrats. He's not just meeting with the Democrats. And I do believe, you know, if Trump wants to know if somebody actually did a wiretap for him he can pick up the phone and talk to the FBI director. That person is easily accessible to him.
And I think it's benefiting him, he believes, by not -- by having it out there in the ether and nobody necessarily knows any answer to that question even though Obama himself has said there was no wiretapping. The FBI director said there was no wiretapping. So I think Trump doesn't want to know the real answer.
PHILIPS: Obama didn't say that. Obama said that he didn't order the wiretapping.
VAUSE: -- which was the accusation.
SESAY: Yes, it was the accusation that Trump has --
PHILIPS: But that doesn't mean that someone in the executive branch didn't do it.
SESAY: But again, not what he said and I mean the charge he's laying is that his predecessor was, you know, up to McCarthyism style tactics. I mean that's very different.
PHILIPS: But if it came from the executive branch, who cares? I mean what Obama said was very specific. He said that he himself and someone from the White House didn't do it. But what does that mean for the DOJ? What does that mean for the FBI? What does that mean for the CIA?
We know there was a FISA request in June to tape the Trump administration or to tap his line that came from the executive branch. We believe that another one happened again in October. We don't know the details as to who exactly they wanted to tap in that one.
We know that James Rosen of Fox News did have his phones tapped by the Obama administration. A reporter from the Associated Press had the same thing happen. And we know that Obama supporters within the administration or at least many of us believe that they leaked information in the phone conversation with the President of Australia, the phone conversation with the President of Mexico and Flynn's conversations with the ambassador from Russia.
VAUSE: (inaudible) TV to find out what --
VAUSE: Ok. Another day and another dodge for the Vice President and that really tricky question which they're now even asking over at Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL ANCHOR: You think it's possible that President Obama ordered the wiretap on candidate Trump?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we'll just let the congressional committees review that and answer those questions. Those are knowable answers and the bipartisan congressional committee is going to appropriately review the facts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: So John, tell me -- who in the White House actually believes the President at this stage?
PHILIPS: The President when he is at Mar-A-Lago.
VAUSE: Besides the President.
PHILIPS: Look -- whether or not Obama did it himself, that has not been proven. We do know that the Obama administration used wiretaps on a variety of instances to try to gain information on their political opponents.
GREUEL: There is no proof that they were doing that for the political opponents for the reason of actually infiltrating or having some impact on the election. Whereas on the other side from Russia and the others engaged in the Trump election -- so I think, really, when you look at what Trump said he was specific about Obama, called him a sick man.
I mean, that is just unacceptable from the President of the United States to be tweeting that on a Saturday morning and still has refused to say where he got that information and no one from the administration is saying it either.
SESAY: So you put it out and then now what we are seeing is kind of limited availability to the press. It's kind of like he decided this --
VAUSE: No appearances for six days.
SESAY: Is this the course -- is this what we're looking at now? The President -- in like bunker down mode until these hearings are done, until we get an answer?
PHILIPS: Well, one thing that we heard from the intelligence chiefs over the weekend on the Sunday shows is that there's no connection between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
We also heard the confirmation that that FISA court request did happen in June. I think they should release that request. I think we should know exactly why the Obama administration wanted to tap Donald Trump's phones when Donald Trump was the Republican nominee for president.
VAUSE: Ok. Let me get to some alternative facts du jour. This comes from the new head of the EPA talking about what causes climate change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that it has been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate? Do you believe that?
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: No, I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there is tremendous disagreement about degree of impact. So no, I would not agree that it is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok.
PRUITT: We don't know that yet. We need to continue to debate, continue review the analysis.
VAUSE: Wendy, Pruitt is wrong. There is consensus. But is this a sign that the Trump administration wants to roll back not just climate change policy but scientific fact?
GREUEL: I believe so. I mean this -- scientists have demonstrated what causes climate change. It's global warming. I mean this is not something that you can say doesn't exist. The actual facts are out there.
And I believe that when the EPA administrator was selected he was selected for that reason because Donald Trump didn't believe in climate change either.
[00:24:59] And I believe there are scientists all across this country that are worried on a number of levels that their facts and figures are not going to be considered by this administration. It's going to be political and not about the facts.
VAUSE: Very quickly you want to --
PHILIPS: The gas bags in Washington, D.C. are far more damaging to the environment.
SESAY: We knew what you're going to say -- you know that.
VAUSE: Wendy -- thanks so much.
GREUEL: Thank you.
SESAY: All right. Quick break.
Coming up here on NEWSROOM L.A., Donald Trump's second attempt at the travel ban is facing legal action from state officials.
VAUSE: Also and a church which says it will protect undocumented immigrants no matter what federal officials say.
More on that when we come back.
SESAY: All right. And before we go to break let's show you some pictures from South Korea where protests continue. Protests here in support of President Park Geun-Hye who has now been ousted -- the constitutional court upholding a decision to impeach her and people clearly not happy. Those are her supporters out on the streets of Seoul, South Korea right now.
We continue to follow that situation for you. Stay with us.
VAUSE: This is the scene right now in Seoul, South Korea. Protesters now, pro-Park Geun-Hye protesters, supporting the President who was impeached just hours ago and removed from office.
You're watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Angeles. I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay.
Tensions clearly heating up there on the streets of Seoul, South Korea after this scandal divided the nation for months on end.
VAUSE: Yes. It was a unanimous decision by the constitutional court to remove Park Geun-Hye from office -- the first ever South Korean president to be impeached and then removed.
Let's go to Paula Hancocks. She is on the scene right now.
So Paula -- it does seem that these protests are starting to heat up.
[00:29:58] HANCOCKS: Absolutely, John. Yes -- we're now on the opposite side of those police buses. We are with the pro-Park supporters. And you can see -- that looks like it could be tear gas coming through there or some kind of smoke anyway to clear the crowd.
You can see it has gotten a little more hectic. There have been a lot of projectiles being thrown at police. There have been step ladders. There's been stones. Really anything that they can get their hands on to try to hit back.
Really just trying to show their frustration at what has happened. It does appear that that is tear gas. Looking at what everyone is -- yes. That's tear gas.
And you can see that the police have now made a move in front of those police lines trying to push the crowds back further. There has been some significant anger from this side of the supporters.
The pro-Park supporters who do not believe that Park should have been impeached. Now it's worth mentioning there are a lot of people in this country that are happy with what has happened. Millions have been protesting, calling for her impeachment. But the people I'm standing among, this pro-Park, are not in the least bit happy.
They believe that their country has been robbed. One person told me they believe that democracy is dead. The first South Korean president to be impeached and you can just see how high emotions are.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously, very heavy security presence there on the street. We can see the riot police there with shields and helmets as well. The size of the protests, which are supporting Park Geun-hye, what are we talking? Thousands of people?
HANCOCKS: I know. We're not talking that many, John. I'm just trying to see how far back this goes. I'm struggling so I'm not going to make a guess on the numbers of people, but it's more the intensity of the feelings.
You can see the vast majority of pro-Park supporters are older, a vast majority of the anti-Park protesters have been younger, certainly, we see. So we have seen some injuries on this side as well.
We have seen some supporters collapsing or being injured in clashes with police. And you can see people are just so desperate, are just trying to run through the massive police line. Riot police.
I mean, you're just not going to get through that, but that's just an indicative of the pure frustration and anger that people are feeling here. Now I must point out there are people behind us protesting. But they are protesting more peacefully.
So this just shows the part just here. This is just the people right at the front who are feeling this frustration. The police are spraying something as well. I'm not quite sure what that is to try and get people back. But you can see that they are trying to maneuver now and really trying to push the people into an area they feel that they can control them a little more.
ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Paula, the police clearly trying to corral them, get them off the streets. But as you are there taking the temperature of the scenes, what is it going to take to get these people out of there? I mean, how determine are they to stand their ground?
HANCOCKS: Well, I think at this point, the efforts by the police is really just sort of to try and cordon off the people who are particularly passionate about what has just happened. That man just got sprayed right in the face and they're trying to separate them off from the more peaceful protesters. Because there are peaceful pro- Park supporters here. It's important to point that out.
This is a small minority that is starting to throw rocks now from behind the lines, where I am. They are really trying to -- yes, they are throwing some rocks at this point. But this is not the majority of people.
The majority of people are peacefully protesting. This just shows the passion that some people feel about Park Geun-hye, that they do not believe that she should have been impeached. So it's very difficult to see what they're going to do that would actually change it.
You can see there, a man has a fire extinguisher pushing that into the police lines.
HANCOCKS: Let's move back. OK, we'll just come back a little further.
But it is a hectic situation at this point. It's difficult to see how it's going to resolve itself. The emotions are extremely high on this side and the determination is extremely high on the police side.
John and Isha?
VAUSE: For our viewers that are just joining us, you're watching the scene outside the constitutional court in Seoul, South Korea. Just hours after President Park Geun-hye was impeached and officially removed from office.
There is an incredible security presence there right now because there are protesters out supporting the impeached Park Geun-hye. What we have seen over the last few moments, protesters are throwing rocks and other projectiles towards the police who are carrying those riot shields and are wearing masks as well.
As Paula has been pointing out, these are very passionate, very angry supporters of President Park Geun-hye, but they are for the most part an older crowd of South Koreans who are out there supporting the now impeached president.
What we have been told by Paula -- looks like they are now arresting this man. Others have moved in.
[00:35:00] SESAY: As Paula said they seem very, very determined to make their feelings clearly known, feeling very much that Park Geun- hye was unfairly treated this constitutional court which upheld the decision that she should be removed from office due to this allegations of corruption and influence-peddling. And this is the scene. This is the result now on the streets of Seoul, South Korea.
VAUSE: In response to the increasing unrest there, in particular, outside the constitutional court, the acting president has put the military on alert and called out greater security forces to try and bring all this under control. But right now there are these minor scuffles and let's just be clear these are relatively minor scuffles which are ongoing at the moment. They are not making any headway towards the court, which apparently is what they want to do at this point in time.
The police, though, strong in number and standing their ground. It does appear as if a number of these protesters have at least been taken away. One now lying on the pavement, on the street in front of the police making her feelings known or she may have actually collapsed. SESAY: You know, this feeling around Park Geun-hye, you know, we are putting it as a context. She is known in South Korea as a political princess. You know, part of a political dynasty and has long been, you know, in the minds and hearts of the people of South Korea. So this is a remarkable end to her political career. That it would end in this manner by way of impeachment.
The country's first female president brought down by these allegations of corruption and influence peddling. Someone who they have just held in high regard for so many, many years.
VAUSE: It has been quite the political downfall for South Korea's first woman elected to the office of the presidency. And now she has been impeached. She loses her presidential immunity. She could be facing a whole host of criminal charges. She's also refused to speak to special prosecutors. That could all change now especially if an arrest warrant is issued for Park. That may compel her to answer the questions coming from investigators.
For a scandal which not just rock the office of the presidency, but has rock the very institutions across South Korea from the presidency to big business, some of the biggest corporations which are being caught up in this corruption scandal as well.
But the scene right now, 2:37 on a Friday afternoon in Seoul, South Korea. We have riot police. It appears hundreds of riot police. And as many as 21,000 extra police have been deployed to try and keep these protests contained, essentially keeping the Park Geun-hye protesters and supporters away from the constitutional court. Those protesters in turn have been throwing projectiles and rocks at the riot police. The riot police have responded by, it appears by at least detaining a number of those protesters.
SESAY: Yes. As Paula made the point earlier on as we were speaking to her and as she heard from people there on the streets of Seoul, this is not just about Park Geun-hye herself but it's also about fears of what comes next.
What comes next as she leaves office and elections are held with the expectation that it will be a left-leaning government that takes power for the first time in a decade there in South Korea. And what that could mean for relations with their neighbor to the north. North Korea. What that could mean for the relationship with the United States. So many unanswered questions as they move into these new political waters and a lot of that tension is what we're seeing on the streets of South Korea, the fear of the unknown.
VAUSE: Despite these protests which are underway as we can see on the streets of the capital right now, many analysts inside South Korea do point out that this is actually a positive for South Korean democracy in the way that it was handled. A South Korean leader was removed by a legal process. There was no violence really involved in any of this. And they say it is a sign of maturing democracy which relies on institutions which in the past have been weak and in particular, the parliament and the judiciary actually exercising their rights over the president, who was found guilty of essentially extortion, bribery, abuse of power and leaking government secrets.
SESAY: That's right. The constitutional court, chief justice said her action had seriously impaired the spirit of democracy and the rule of law. We're pointing out that it was a panel of eight judges of the country's constitutional court and they unanimously took that decision to uphold the move, to impeach her and remove her from office.
[00:40:00] VAUSE: So what we have right now on the streets, those buses have been put in place to try and essentially separate the protesters away from the court so to what appears to be hundreds of riot police there on the front lines.
And as the case, what happens quite often in these parts of demonstrations, there is an ebb and a flow. The violence will reach a peak and then it tends to fall back. Protesters regroup and then the violence sort of builds to a crescendo again. That's what we have seen over, maybe, the last ten minutes or so. It does now appear to be in something of a lull, almost a standoff right now.
You can see a handful of demonstrators there, just maybe a meter or so away from the South Korean police.
SESAY: The question now whether we will see the anti-Park protesters take to the street in the hours ahead and what that will mean if these people return or remain there on the streets of Seoul. I think that is a question as we pointed out, a huge police presence there right now in Seoul.
Some 21,000 police officers called to duty to attempt to keep the peace.
VAUSE: And what we saw earlier, there were anti-Park demonstrators who were actually out there as well.
SESAY: Scuffling --
VAUSE: And scuffling with the pro-Park demonstrator. That seems to have been brought to an end. And what Paula Hancocks is reporting a short time ago is that there could be a very large anti-Park Geun-hye demonstration later this evening.
In fact, those demonstrations, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people turning out sometime on a bitter cold winter nights to demonstrate against the president. There could be one more very big demonstration later this evening there in Seoul. Now that essentially this chapter in South Korean political history comes to an end.
Of course, another chapter opens as to what happens next. What happens with the opposition Democratic Party? They are really in the polls right now. There will be an election in 60 days to elect a new government. The opinion polls show that the democratic opposition party is leading those polls. The conservative party of Park Geun-hye is bitterly split over this.
SESAY: No clear successor.
VAUSE: Absolutely. They split between those who supported Park and those who opposed her. And throughout this entire scandal, we should note that while Park Geun-hye has made many public apologies, she has never accepted that she has done anything wrong in all of this. That could change as the criminal investigation gets underway.
So just looking to the right of the screen, it looks as if somebody maybe taken away on a stretcher. There could in fact be someone who has been hurt. A number of people may been hurt so far by judging by the scenes that have played out over the last 10 or 15 minutes.
SESAY: Yes. Back to your point, John, the ebb and flow of what we're seeing is clearly in effect as you look to the left of the screen. It looks fairly contained again. People see emotions running high, but those clashes, those direct clashes with police, we are not seeing them at this moment in time.
But as Paula said when we spoke to her a short time ago, these are people determined to remain on the streets, determined to make sure that their feelings are heard and they are seen right around the world.
VAUSE: Absolutely. So as we watch the scenes play out there, outside the constitutional court in Seoul, South Korea, the protests continue. There is an incredible security presence there as well. We will continue to watch the situation in Seoul. We'll also try to find out exactly what happens to Park Geun-hye. How long does she have to vacate the official residence of the president, the blue house. That is unknown, because this has never happened before in South Korea.
SESAY: It's an unchartered waters. And we will continue to follow the scenes there for you in Seoul, South Korea. So do stay with us.
Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: I'm John Vause. "World Sports" is up next. And then we're back with another hour of news from all around the world with a special focus on what's happening in Seoul, South Korea. You're watching CNN.